We couldn’t wait to head to South Dakota for our vacation this year. The last time we were in the Black Hills area, our daughter had just turned two and I was pregnant with our son. That was four years ago! Now that the kids are a little older we were ready to head back to experience more of what the area has to offer.
Read on to check out our travel diary; I’ve included our favorite activities and experiences, plus campground suggestions and our menu for the week.
Thinking about heading to the South Dakota with your toddler? You can check out our favorite things to see and do with toddlers in the Black Hills here.
South Dakota Family Vacation 2.0
Travel day from Iowa. Stayed at Oasis Campground in Oacoma, SD.
Lunch: Green Mill Restaurant, Fairmont, MN
Supper: BBQ Ranch Grilled Chicken and Veggie Bowls
Finally after all of our traveling vacation had begun! The kids loved the Badlands. After showing them what prairie rattlesnakes looked like L proclaimed, “I will call this place Snake Mountain.” Fortunately, we did not run into any rattlesnakes. We spent about two hours roaming around outside the Visitor’s Center and on the Fossil Exhibit Trail. We had a picnic lunch in the camper, then drove on to set up for the week at Rapid City RV Park.
On our way to the Dinosaur Park, we took the beautiful Skyline Drive. At one point L exclaimed, “Whoa! I can see the whole America!” That road has gorgeous views! The kids enjoyed climbing on the dinosaurs, but their favorite part was the ice cream at the gift shop. Of course.
Lunch: Mexican Pinwheels, Fresh Fruit, Fresh Vegetables, Chips
Supper: Burgers, French Fries, Fresh Corn Dip
If you are visiting Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, I highly suggest getting there early. We arrived at 7:15 AM. Parking was a breeze and it wasn’t crowded whatsoever. We stayed at Mt. Rushmore for three hours learning and exploring. The Presidential Trail and the Sculpture Studio were neat experiences, but taking part in the Junior Ranger program was the highlight.
L’s favorite part of the Junior Ranger program for preschool aged children was the scavenger hunt and the matching of the names of the presidents to their faces.
B’s favorite part of the Junior Ranger program for ages 5-12 was learning about the carving tools and drawing a picture that told the story about her visit to Mt Rushmore.
She also enjoyed helping L with his scavenger hunt.
We took a round trip ride on the 1880 Train from Keystone to Hill City and back. If we were to do this again, we’d leave more time between trips for exploring.
We almost didn’t go to Bear Country because we drove through it on our last trip to South Dakota. Kyle and I were glad we went back because the kids went nuts over the experience. They loved seeing all of the animals, and especially enjoyed the Wildlife Walkway.
We knew we wanted to come back here for this trip, too. The kids loved the animals, reptiles, and the snake show. There is a lot to see at Reptile Gardens, and I’d advise getting there when they open or shortly after.
Kyle and the kids enjoyed being off balance at this attraction much more than I did. 🙂
We had so much fun with the kids on the chair lift and the alpine slide at Rushmore Tramway Adventures. Before we went down the slide, we had a snack at the Mountain Top Grille which overlooks the beautiful Black Hills National Forest and Mount Rushmore.
We went to Storybook Island with B when she was two and she loved it then as much as she loved it on this trip. This is a can’t miss park to explore with your kids, and admission is FREE in the summer.
Supper: Ruby Tuesday, Rapid City
We saw gorgeous views this day! We took I-90 through Sundance, WY and came in to Devil’s Tower from the south. We couldn’t hike the trails around the tower because we had Sunny with us, so Instead, we hiked around the picnic area, campground, and prairie dog town. We had a picnic lunch and then took off for Spearfish taking WY-24 through Aladdin. We rarely had cell service, so we relied on our road atlas (note: always have a road atlas wherever you go!) The landscapes we drove through were stunning.
We all needed a break from the truck so we stopped here for some exercise. The kids loved the playground here and had lots of fun.
Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish Canyon
On our way to Deadwood we made a quick stop at the falls.
We arrived in Deadwood around 2:30 and dropped in at Mustang Sally’s for an early supper. They allow dogs on their patio, so we got to sit outside with Sunny. After we ate we watched the 4:00 PM street show “Main Street Shootouts“.
This was a long day, we were happy to get back to the camper and relax!
Lunch: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, Cheese Sticks, Applesauce, Chips
Supper: Mustang Sally’s, Deadwood, SD
Kyle’s number one request was to take this road to Custer State Park. It was really cool. Once we drove into the park, we stopped to go splash around in Center Lake. Center Lake has a great beach and beautiful water.
After the beach, we hit the road in search of bison in Custer SP (my number one request for vacation). We found them almost immediately. They were incredible! Early bedtime and head for home in the morning.
LATE Lunch: The Buglin’ Bull, Custer, SD